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Student Activism at Duke University

Created by Jamie Patrick-Burns, 2014-2015 University Archives Drill Intern.

The Silent Vigil, 1968

From April 5-11, 1968, Duke University experienced a student-organized demonstration sparked by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Following a peaceful occupation of President Douglas Knight's house, students moved to the Chapel Quad, where they kept a silent vigil for several days.

Student activists also called for a boycott of the dining halls, in support of striking food service and housekeeping employees. As a result of the Vigil, the administration agreed to raise the minimum wage for campus employees and re-examine racial concerns.

The Silent Vigil: Getting Started

Secondary Sources: These items include student research papers and honors theses.

  • Hanberry, Jane M. "The Duke Vigil: A Culmination of Issues." History 195/196 research paper, 1976. Available in box 3 of the Dept. of History Records.

Campus Publications:

  • Henderson, David L. A Journal of the Duke Vigil (c. 1968): Henderson was one of the student organizers of the Silent Vigil. This journal provides a day-by-day account and analysis of Silent Vigil events.
  • The Duke Chronicle : Includes coverage of the Silent Vigil and and the campus and Durham response. Issues of the Chronicle from this time period may also be accessed online.

Related Websites and Online Resources:

  • The Student Activism album on the Duke University Archives' Flickr site contains several photos from the Silent Vigil.
  • "The Silent Vigil, 1968," Duke University Libraries website. A brief history written by former University Archivist William E. King.

The Silent Vigil: Archival Collections

Key Collection:

  • Duke Vigil Collection, 1968-1988Collection includes publications, correspondence, reports, flyers and ephemera, press releases, clippings, and first-hand accounts of the Silent Vigil, as well as information about the anniversary and reunion of the Silent Vigil in 1988. 

Other Relevant Collections:

  • Barry Sharoff Papers on the Duke Vigil, 1968-1988: Sharoff, Class of 1968, organized publicity for the Duke Vigil Strategy Committee. His collection includes flyers, newspapers, press releases, statements, notes, correspondence, and publicly-distributed materials regarding the Duke Vigil, as well as materials related to the 20th anniversary of the Vigil in 1988.
  • Boyte Family Papers, 1941-1981: The "Duke University, 1964-1975 and nd" folder in box 4 contains flyers and writings about the Vigil, collected by Duke student Harry Boyte.

Photograph and Audio/Visual Collections: